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The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
August 15, 2021

Watch this homily! (Begins at 35:20)

 
   There is a certain extravagance – a holy extravagance – about the readings for this feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There was extravagance in the apocalyptic imagery from the Book of Revelation which painted a symbolic picture of the cosmic struggle between good and evil and the ultimate triumph of good.

     There was extravagance, too, in the Gospel reading: the Magnificat, Mary’s great hymn in praise of the God who almost goes overboard in doing great things: hearing the cry of the poor, casting down the mighty from their thrones, scattering the proud in confusion, exalting the lowly, filling the hungry with good things.

     Extravagance! It is one of the trademarks of the God who never does things by half-measures. We see it over and over again in the order of nature, don’t we? – in the mountains, the rivers and the seas, the forests, the flowers, the harvests, the animals, and, of course, we see it in human beings, the crown of all God’s creation, But God’s extravagance is even greater in the order of grace: in the Incarnation and the Resurrection of Jesus, in the virginal motherhood of Mary, in the holiness of the saints, in the abundant sacramental life of the church.  Extravagance is the word. God does not do things by half-measures.  God is never outdone!

     Mary’s assumption is yet another instance of God’s extravagance. Christian believers seemed to know almost instinctively that Mary, the mother of the redeemer as well as the first and best disciple of the redeemer, would be the first to share bodily in the glory of his Resurrection from the dead. That’s what Mary’s Assumption means. It seemed unthinkable that God, who had been so lavish in the way he chose Mary and filled her with grace from the very beginning, would not be similarly lavish in the way he treated her after death.

     Christian prayer and art from the earliest days reflect a strong belief that Mary was uniquely holy and that when she died, God treated the body of his mother and ours uniquely - Mary, the one whom the poet Wordsworth described, in an extravagant but utterly accurate bit of poetry, as “our tainted nature’s solitary boast.”

     But there can be a danger in a feast like this that celebrates the singular and unique privileges of Mary.  The danger is that we will see Mary as so completely unique and different from ourselves that we will lose any sense of her being one of us. And that would be a great mistake because, no matter how singularly blessed by God Mary was, she is nonetheless one of us. Mary, like us, had to deal with life as we know it: with pain and loss, with heartache and heartbreak, and, of course, with death – the death of her own Son. All through her life she had to grope in darkness as we must – the darkness of faith – in order to make sense of out of so much that must have seemed senseless. Mary was a believer. These words of St. Augustine say it well: “Mary conceived Christ in her mind – by faith – before she ever conceived him in her womb.”

     Today’s gospel reading, the Magnificat, says all of this and more. Mary praises God not for her unique privileges but rather for her oneness and solidarity with the entire human family, and most especially with the poor and the lowly of this world, people like you and me, people whose littleness and weakness allows God to be strong, whose powerlessness leaves room for the power of God.

      My friends in Christ, make no mistake about it: Mary is one of us. Do not think of her rare privileges – her Immaculate Conception, her glorious Assumption – as untouchable trophies well beyond our reach; no, think of her privileges as powerful reminders of what God has in mind for each of us: grace and glory, grace beyond measure and glory without end!

Father Michael G. Ryan

 

 

 

 

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